Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, May 2001: Volume 2, Issue 5
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training
Ask anyone in the child care field what skills they want to instill in children and they’ll immediately respond with answers like “life skills,” “social skills,” “problem-solving skills,” and “ability to work with others.” There is one skill, however, that child care providers might not immediately state, but it encompasses all of the above: communication skills.
Because child care settings give children chances to interact with each other and adults in a social setting, there are unique opportunities for children to develop communication skills. The child care providers can encourage communication amongst children in four basic ways:
The Environment: A child care environment that allows for flexibility, choices, and open-ended activities within the schedule will encourage children to communicate.
Body Language: The adults can send powerful messages to children that they want to hear what they have to say by bending down, facing children, smiling, using eye contact, and nodding.
Active Listening: By using techniques such as rephrasing what children say and pausing instead of immediately commenting, adults can encourage children to extend their conversations.
Open-Ended Questions: By asking children questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no” or with one word phrases, adults will evoke a lot more discussion and reflection from children.
We want children to feel comfortable and safe. We know that the greatest way to do this is to develop strong relationships with them. If we recognize ways of building our own communication skills, we can learn to communicate more effectively with children. Hey, if we listen to children enough, we might just learn something.
Want to learn more about communicating effectively with children? For more ideas, consider the Talking with Kids workshop, also available as a do-it-yourself training package.